Even the most eco-minded fashion companies have had a hard time figuring out how to recycle mixed-fiber textiles (you know, like poly-cotton blends). Now, fast fashion giant H&M may have cracked the code.
H&M Foundation, the Swedish company’s independent charitable foundation and investment arm, tasked Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles to help them find an open-source solution for textile blend recycling that could be commercially viable by 2020. They’ve already struck on something that could make recycling fabric a reality. According to H&M, the new process uses a combination of heat, water, and 5% of a biodegradable agent to separate the cotton from the polyester into high-quality, reusable materials. H&M Foundation says the resulting polyester and cotton fibers are good enough to be used in new textile production. Now, they are building an industrial-scale plant to pilot the project. The H&M Foundation plans to license the technology out to help the entire fashion industry become more eco-friendly by 2020.